Suggested Essay Topics
1. Describe the Professor’s conversation with Berlioz and Ivan. In what ways does he dispute the notion that God does not exist? How do his prophecy and specialty in black magic influence the impact of his claim that Jesus did exist?
2. What oddities does Berlioz encounter by the Patriarch’s Ponds, aside from the Professor’s appearance? How do these oddities provide a backdrop for his and Ivan’s encounter with the Professor?
1. Describe the ways in which this chapter illustrates Pilate’s weariness. How does his weariness contrast with Yeshua’s character?
2. How does the story of Pilate and Yeshua told here differ and elaborate on the Gospel accounts of the relationship of Pilate and Jesus?
1. How might Berlioz’s death serve as a seventh proof of God’s existence?
2. Discuss Ivan’s chase after the professor, the choirmaster, and the cat. How does the chase further the sense of surrealness and artifice created by earlier chapters?
1. Compare Ivan’s belief that unclean powers have caused Berlioz’s demise with the disbelieving reaction of the doctor and the people at Griboedov’s to his testimony.
2. Analyze the character of Riukhin. Why does he curse the statue along the boulevard? What is the meaning of his confession that his poems are lies and his recognition that his life is miserable?
1. Analyze the history and current events at apartment 50. What could explain the peculiar events at the apartment?
2. Describe Ivan’s mental and emotional condition in chapter eight. Why does no one believe Ivan’s stories about Pilate and the death of Berlioz?
1. Discuss Bosoy’s crime of speculating in foreign currency. What does his acceptance of the bribe and arrest indicate about corruption in Communist Moscow? 2. Analyze the attack on Varenukha. In light of earlier events, what does it reveal about Woland and his retinue? Why might Varenukha be attacked?
1. What does the title of chapter 11 mean? How might Ivan be said to have split in two?
2. How does Woland’s magic show bring out the dark, material desires of Moscow’s citizens and bring them to fruition? What are Woland’s reasons for fulfilling these desires?
1. How does Ivan and the master’s shared knowledge of the Pilate story change the credibility and objectivity of that story? Has the story become more convincing as a result?
2. What are the possible reasons for Ivan’s refusal to believe he met Satan at the Patriarch’s Ponds? Given the events in the novel thus far, is Ivan’s disbelief well-founded?
(The entire section is 1206 words.)